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Never Too Late, A 23-Year Journey to A Nursing Degree

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Raised by a single mother among seven siblings, Munoz has wholeheartedly devoted herself to numerous roles as a daughter, sister, aunt, wife, and mother of four. She is now prepared to channel her nurturing abilities into caring for patients. STC Image
Raised by a single mother among seven siblings, Munoz has wholeheartedly devoted herself to numerous roles as a daughter, sister, aunt, wife, and mother of four. She is now prepared to channel her nurturing abilities into caring for patients. STC Image
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By Selene Rodriguez

After more than 20 years, selflessly prioritizing the needs of others, South Texas College graduate Julia Munoz finally achieved a lifelong dream of earning an associate degree in Nursing and will soon become a registered nurse.

Raised by a single mother among seven siblings, Munoz has wholeheartedly devoted herself to numerous roles as a daughter, sister, aunt, wife and mother of four.

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She is now prepared to channel her nurturing abilities into caring for patients.

Julia with her family at graduation. STC Image

“I knew I wanted to help people for as long as I can remember. When I would visit my grandmother as little girl, there would be this man with a mental disability that all the kids would make fun of. I must have been 2 or 3 years old, but I remember feeling hurt,” she recounted. “My mother never once told me to stay away, both she and my grandmother would help him with food or whatever he needed. I believe that’s where my passion for caring for others comes from.”

Brought to the United States from Mexico as a baby, Munoz grew up in a close-knit family that faced many financial struggles. 

Despite being a middle child, she felt a strong sense of responsibility towards caring for her family, which led her to initially set aside her dream of healing others and pursue a business degree at STC after graduating from Donna High School in 2001.

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“Growing up, my entire family was in business, so naturally, I followed that path. I always felt a deep responsibility to prioritize work and provide for my family,” she said. “I made a promise to myself to be the first in my family to graduate high school, which I did, and then to be the first to attend college, setting an example for my siblings.”

Just when Munoz was about to finish her degree, Munoz met the love of her life, and everything changed. 

“He was unlike anyone I had ever met before. We dated for just two weeks before deciding to get married within six months,” she said with joy. “We’ve been together for sixteen years now. He’s not only my absolute best friend, but also my biggest supporter. He’s the one who encouraged me to pursue nursing.”

After marrying in 2007, the couple relocated to Houston, his hometown, where she initially began the process of enrolling in nursing school, but when she became a mother, her priorities shifted. 

“During our early years of marriage, we faced financial challenges, especially during the recession of 2008. This wasn’t new to me, having grown up with little, although my mother always made sure we never felt deprived, not even without a father,” she said. “I think it was her tough love that helped me and my husband endure. He could see I needed to be with my family, so in 2013, we returned to the Valley.”

Rebounding from their financial hardships and fully immersing herself in family life once more, Munoz set aside her dream yet again. 

“We were certainly facing many financial hardships, but what held me back was fear. Fear of failure, of not measuring up as a mother, of not being good enough”, she said. “But my husband was always there to remind me that I was more than just a mother. I deserved to pursue my dreams.”

It was the passing of her stepfather in 2019 that finally inspired her to strive for herself and enroll at STC’s Patient Care Technician program.

“He urged me not to live with regrets, to prioritize my own happiness,” she said. “His passing sparked something within me, leading me to register for the program at the very last minute. I applied convinced that if I was accepted, it was meant to be.”

Sure enough, Munoz began the six-month certification in January 2020, unaware of the new challenges that would arise once the COVID-19 pandemic started mid-semester.

“It was surreal to take my first steps into the profession amidst all the craziness and the unknown. It encouraged me to keep going even more, I didn’t want to run from it, but towards it, because we need more nurses,” she said. “And I kept going; shortly after, I found myself accepted into STC’s Vocational Nursing program.”

Grateful for the strong foundation provided by instructors and faculty that helped her succeed, she received her Patient Care Technician Certificate in May 2020 and graduated from Vocational Nursing in December 2021.

Accepted in the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program in 2022, Munoz encountered yet another challenge when, set to graduate in 2023, she had to repeat a semester. 

“As a registered nurse, there’s an immense amount of responsibility, which is why this program is so rigorous. It demands a significant time investment and covers an extensive amount of information,” she explained. “I reached this point after facing failure; it was a challenging. I was burned out, and my daughter was facing serious health issues. However, once I gathered myself, it was the critical thinking skills instilled in me from the very beginning that enabled me to provide my daughter with the help she needed and ultimately complete my degree.”

Thankful for the support received, she intends to continue her education and pursue a bachelor’s degree in Nursing at STC.

“I’m immensely grateful to STC, from the custodians who would stop me in the hallway to wish me luck on exams to the amazing tutors, library and open labs personnel, everyone goes out of their way to help,” she said. “I must also highlight the incredible support from my instructors, all the way up to President Dr. Ricardo Solis, who personally approached me on more than one occasion to offer his support. STC is undeniably the most amazing and welcoming place.”

Now, recently graduated and preparing for her national licensure exam, Munoz aspires to dedicate herself to those who need it most by pursuing her goal of becoming an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Critical Care nurse. 

“It’s been a long journey, but I believe it took me this long for a reason. God placed me here for a purpose. I had to come back home to the Valley and finish because now I can confidently say that I’m ready,” she said. “It’s been a journey of resilience, something crucially needed in this field. Even in the midst of darkness, you learn to focus on the light, bounce back and keep returning, always putting others before yourself.”

For more information on STC’s Nursing and Allied Health programs, visit nah.southtexascollege.edu/ or call 956-872-3100.

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